Words and Pictures: Judge Dredd

In its mere fourteen or so years of existence, IDW has become one of the success stories in US comics, having already established itself as the 4th biggest publisher of comics sold through comics specialty shops (the top two are obvious, the third’s Image, for anyone who’s curious).

Amongst lots of pretty well-received material based on licensed properties, like Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Star Trek, the company’s also produced two of my very favourite comics of the last few years: Locke & Key, which I’ve talked about here before and hope to revisit when the final collected edition is published; and Darwyn Cooke’s graphic novel adaptations of the Richard Stark Parker novels, which I’ll sadly never discuss here because they’re pure crime fiction, but I can assure you they’re very, very good.

Now, IDW has launched a full frontal, no-holds-barred assault on my affections by directly targeting my childhood. Using a Judge Dredd comic. As it turns out (says he coming back to edit the intro, having discovered that what follows didn’t turn out quite as expected), that means I’m about to mostly talk about my childhood, the oddities of Dredd as a character, US vs UK sensibilities and various other odds and ends. But I do talk the comic itself a bit too, so all is not lost.
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FILM REVIEW: Dredd (2012)

REVIEW SUMMARY: Covering almost no new cinematic ground, director Pete Travis and screenwriter Alex Garland nonetheless concoct a tight, gritty, and resiliently dark picture featuring John Wagner’s and Carlos Ezquerra’s classic character.

RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: While investigating the deaths of three individuals in the 200-story Peach Trees tower, Judge Joe Dredd and rookie Judge Cassandra Anderson become the prey of drug lord Madeline Madrigal and her army.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Karl Urban, disappearing beneath the helmet to become Dredd; Olivia Thirlby’s nuanced Anderson; Lena Headey’s menacing turn as Ma-Ma; Alex Garland’s lean, spare script; Pete Travis’s tight direction; exceptional action sequences; good blend of gritty realism and fantastical ultraviolence, even when using slow-motion techniques.
CONS: Worldbuilding of Mega-City One sacrificed for speed and efficiency; unassuming score from Paul Leonard-Morgan; competent yet unnecessary use of 3D; perhaps not newbie-friendly.

Cinema history poses the most significant challenge in making a movie based writer John Wagner’s and Carlos Ezquerra’s Judge Joseph Dredd.  Forget that anybody who wants to bring him to life must contend with the iconic image of Peter Weller’s chrome-bodied cyborg in Paul Verhoven’s RoboCop; audiences inevitably will compare the vast urban landscapes of Mega-City One, regardless of how well rendered, to Bladerunner’s postmodern Gothic spires and Escape from New York’s decaying infrastructure.  When Dredd speaks in the panels of 2000 AD, fans hear Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan growling at yet another lawless punk ready to make his day.  Granted, the comic always borrowed heavily from others in crafting Dredd’s adventures; one followed the series for its audacious vision, not for its originality.
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VIDEO: 2012 Judge Dredd Trailer

Here’s the trailer for the new Judge Dredd movie that 2000 AD co-creator John Wagner praised on his Facebook page, saying, “Dredd as it should be done.”  As for Karl Urban and Olivia Thirlby, Wagner had this to say, “Karl is a great Dredd and Olivia gets Anderson completely. This is Dredd as it should be done – true to character, visceral, unrelentingly violent (but not off-puttingly so).”

Visceral and violent?  Take a look at the trailer and let us know what you think in the comments…
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SF Tidbits for 9/10/09

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